Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Un-settling Law [Elizabeth]

Is the right to an abortion settled law?

Our newest U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said so during her confirmation hearings in July.

Hadley Arkes, a professor and pro-life advocate, explores this issue in his book, Natural Rights & the Right to Choose. He argues that the majority of Americans think that when a law has been in place for some time, it cannot be revisited.

But, citizens need to be reminded that slavery was once considered settled law.

On October 1, The New York Times published the article “Support Appears to Drop for Abortion Rights” after the Pew Research Center released findings from a recent poll.

While a 2008 Pew poll found that those in favor of keeping abortion legal outnumbered opponents, 54 percent to 40 percent, the new Pew poll suggests that that gap has narrowed. Now, 47 percent of those surveyed said abortion should be legal in all or most cases — a difference within the poll’s margin of sampling error.

According to the article, the study did not find the reason for the shift in opinion, which has occurred since the election of President Barack Obama.

“The size of the shift is modest, but the consistency with which we see it occurring and the implications it has for the overall dynamics of the debate make it significant,” said Gregory Smith, a senior researcher at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

And yet, the poll also found that only 15 percent of respondents said abortion was a critical issue, compared with 28 percent in another survey conducted in 2006, according to the article.

Could it be that these respondents — many of whom don’t think abortion should be legal — don’t think it’s a critical issue because they subscribe to the belief that the law is settled?

Here’s what I took out of the poll results: We have an opportunity here to capitalize. The health care debates and the words of our president have forced Americans to reevaluate the issue of abortion.

The political climate is perfect for pro-lifers to reenergize with a common goal. More people are getting involved in politics because of issues like health care that have created polarization among Americans.

But, with more people paying attention, much more can be done. Talk to people. Communicate our message persuasively one person at a time.

Maybe Arkes is right, while we may not be able to overturn Roe v. Wade, we can certainly seek out middle ground and get the ball rolling by pushing for legislation that would make late-term abortion illegal.

After all, this isn’t an all-or-nothing type of issue. With every unborn child we save from abortion, we fulfill our purpose.

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